“China looks forward to working with Saudi Arabia and Arab states to turn the two summits into milestone events in the history of China-Arab relations and China-GCC relations, and bring these relations to new heights,” the Foreign Ministry cited the Chinese leader as saying.
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Arab leaders on Friday at “milestone” summits hosted by Saudi Arabia in a show of strength by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as an aspiring leader of the Middle East and key partner for global powers.
Leaders of Arab League states spanning the Gulf, Levant and Africa began arriving in Riyadh on Thursday when Xi received a lavish reception by Prince Mohammed and signed a China-Saudi partnership pact with King Salman, demonstrating deepening ties.
The Chinese leader said his visit, during which he will meet other Gulf oil producers and attend a wider summit with Arab League countries on Friday, heralded a “new era” in relations.
Qatar’s emir, Kuwait’s crown prince and the presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, Djibouti, Somalia and Mauritania are among rulers attending alongside leaders and prime ministers of Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Lebanon.
The United States is warily watching the growing influence of economic rival Beijing in the region, where China has a vested interest as the world’s biggest energy consumer and Chinese firms are expanding into technology and other infrastructure.
Xi’s visit also comes at a time when Riyadh’s long-standing alliance with Washington has been strained over human rights, energy policy and Russia, as well as Gulf doubts about the commitment of main security guarantor America to the region.